In case you haven’t noticed, all three of the New York Jets division rivals have been fairly active this off-season. Today’s 12 pack is dedicated to examining which of those moves will have the biggest impact. I can promise you the Jets will be a consensus pick to battle for last place with Miami this year while Buffalo will be everybody’s sweetheart pick to challenge New England and grab a playoff spot. To that I say…good. I am glad this team is back to playing with low expectations and in more of an underdog role.
12. Watch Him – Under the radar signing, corner/safety Richard Marshall going to Miami. He is a good, versatile player who will be a nice addition to that defense.
11. Bit Pieces – New England made a handful of minor moves on their defense by signing Jonathan Fanene, Bobby Carpenter, and ex-Jet Marquice Cole. These are the kind of transactions that don’t get much press but then you see all three of them making impact plays for the Patriots.
10. Mid-Round Steals – Credit Buffalo for getting great value in the second and third round of the NFL Draft. Cordy Glenn has a good chance to start immediately at tackle and I wouldn’t be surprised to see wide receiver T.J. Graham starting by the end of the year.
9. Quiet Secondary – New England didn’t make any major splashes in improving their consistently awful secondary this off-season. However, keep an eye on free agent Steve Gregory and second round pick Tavon Wilson to make immediate impacts at the safety position.
8. We Want An Island – Buffalo selected highly touted cornerback Stephon Gilmore in the first round to help sure up the back end of their secondary. He has the skill set to make an immediate impact on a defense that allowed Mark Sanchez to throw four touchdowns against it last season in a single game.
7. No Law Firm – New England decided to let BenJarvus Green-Ellis leave for Cincinnati in a somewhat surprising move. They will be relying heavily on Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen to step up to fill the void. Personally, I am happy to see Green-Ellis, who was a savvy, hard running and productive back. I wouldn’t be surprised if New England added Joseph Addai in the coming weeks.
6. Light On Receivers – Miami surprisingly shipped wide receiver Brandon Marshall off to Chicago in a trade, leaving them thin at the wide receiver position unless you consider Brian Hartline and Davone Bess major threats.
5. Linebacker Nation – New England drafted two players in the first round to boost their pass rush and linebacker play, by grabbing Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. Jones will line up all over New England’s formation and Hightower should be an instant upgrade at inside linebacker.
4. If It Ain’t Broke, Or Was It? - Buffalo decided to continue to roll with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their quarterback and Stevie Johnson as their top wideout. One thing that everybody forgets when discussing the Bills as a contender is that Ryan Fitzpatrick, outside of a few early season flashes…kind of sucks. Johnson has a weird ability to get open on Darrelle Revis on short and intermediate routes but is also an idiot and a loose cannon who frequently hurts his team more than he helps it.
3. Receivers On Receivers – New England had depth issues at wide receiver last year…not anymore. They added Brandon Lloyd, who is a viable deep threat and one of the more productive receivers in the league the past few years, along with Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Gonzalez, and Donte Stallworth. So long Ochocinco.
2. Miami Drafts Tannehill – The Dolphins finally decided to take a quarterback in the first round, not the second round. It is hard to imagine a scenario where Tannehill doesn’t start at some point this season, with apologies to the immortal Matt Moore and David Garrard. Opinions were mixed on him coming out of college, so he could be a boom or bust prospect. However, we do know there were not mixed opinions on his wife.
1. Buffalo Gets After The Quarterback – The biggest free agent signing of the NFL off-season not involving Peyton Manning was the Buffalo Bills getting Mario Williams to lead the improvement of their stagnant pass rush. They supplemented the move by bringing in Mark Anderson who had 10.5 sacks last season for New England. The popular line of thought is that Buffalo has the best front seven in football now, we’ll see about that. Either way, Tony Sparano has his work cut out for him with Wayne Hunter, Vlad Ducasse and Caleb Schlauderaff all potential parts of the line.